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Chinese researchers have claimed that they had found a batch of new coronaviruses in bats including one that may be the second-closest yet (genetically) to the Covid virus.

In a report published in the journal Cell, the Chinese researchers from Shandong University said they had assembled 24 novel coronavirus genomes from different bat species.

The samples were collected from small, forest-dwelling bats between May 2019 and November 2020. The researchers say that they tested urine, feces and swabs from the bats.

The report has come amid growing calls for a timely, transparent and evidence-based study into the origins of coronavirus.  The first case of infection was reported in the Wuhan city of China one-and-a-half year ago. There have been allegations against China that the virus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

One of China's top diplomats on Friday had rejected such allegations and claimed it was absurd to try to claim that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on Friday, 'stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for WHO Phase 2 expert-led studies in China,'

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